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protection in sandstone cracks (I.e. southern utah)
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By Ryan A.
From Fort Collins, CO
Oct 23, 2010
Me

Ok, this is likely to start a ****storm, but here goes.

Been in a debate recently with a friend who is a big crack climber in utah. I'm not really familiar with this type of climbing, but the debate is on the use of hexes in southern utah style parallel cracks (verses using cams). My question is this: can hexes be used in place of cams on your average parallel fist (or smaller) sandstone crack. Especially on one of those "bring at least 8 #3 camalots" climbs? Thinking this would save not only weight, but considerable cost as well.

Also, I've heard all the usual arguments against this idea (cams are easier/faster, the cost should not be an issue, hexes are difficult to place, cams are shiny, etc.) so stick to the feasibility/safety of doing hexes-only crack climbs. Assume that the climber is very adept at placing hexes, and willing to take the time and physical effort mid-climb to place them well. What do you all think?


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By Dustin B
From Steamboat
Oct 23, 2010
It's always a party.

They work, but are more limited than cams. You don't get to pick and choose where you place them so much, but in the right spot/size, they're bomber. I'm a scaredy cat and wouldn't use them for substitution of cams on sizes that are uncomfortable for me, but on sizes that are solid for me, I use them sometimes. It can definatly get your heart going. I would almost always take cams over hexes, but if you don't have the choice they'll work.

Earl climbed supercrack on hexes, and many of the earlier (mostly hand and offwith size) climbs were done before cams, or with a limited number of cams. There's no reason you can't use hexes for protection. Plus, cams don't count for adventure points, but hexes do!


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By Cindy
From Golden, CO
Oct 23, 2010

It can certainly be done given your caveats of adept at placement and willing to take the time and energy to place them. It will be much more difficult at times (possibly many) to find and get those great feel good placements cams give, especially right when you want them. So you may not have all the pro desired... that means different things to different people. So will it work? Depends on the climb and the person. (not meant to sound offhanded, i just think it's a fact)

To know if it's gonna work for you and give you the pro you want on that lead you'll just have to give it a go. Of course, ready to downclimb as needed.


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By Allen Hill
From FIve Points, Colorado and Pine
Oct 23, 2010
Slick Rock put in

It certainly changes the entire nature of the climbs. Indian Creek would be empty if not for cams. But yes many climbs were done without cams in the seventies and early eighties. I for one would love to hear about your cam less adventures in the desert!


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By Cindy
From Golden, CO
Oct 23, 2010

If you do it take photos! And post em please. You could get some serious hardman points and even start a "retro" desert trend. I can already hear the IC campfire stories...


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By Allen Hill
From FIve Points, Colorado and Pine
Oct 23, 2010
Slick Rock put in

Or the flames on this very site!


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By rob bauer
From Golden, CO
Oct 24, 2010

This won't open a s'storm at all. Lots of us have done it both ways. We learned that cams are way better. You'll be amazed how many times the hex just won't quite work where you want/expect them. The runouts become daunting. I think Allen is right. When I had few Friends, I'd save one until I just couldn't face it anymore. More often than not, I'd still have some hexes. (Maybe I'm not that strong or bold?) Have at it; enjoy the historical challenges. I bet you'll get some more cams as soon as you can.


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By Brian Scoggins
From Eugene, OR
Oct 24, 2010

Actually, the more you place hexes, the more you notice what is necessary for the placement. That's right, I'm saying that if you think this is really feasible, you haven't placed nearly enough hexes. Hexes need a taper to work, even when set in camming mode, simply because the piece won't stay put without it. There are some cracks in southern Utah that will take hexes exceedingly well, but the closer to uniform size you get, the fewer hex placements you'll encounter. Just like tricams work best if there's something for the stinger to catch on, so it goes with hexes. One of the points has to catch on something, or else the camming action won't occur.


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By Allen Hill
From FIve Points, Colorado and Pine
Oct 24, 2010
Slick Rock put in

Thats why stacking hexes worked so well out there. One could in essence build a camming device using hexes with another hex or even a stopper. The devices would form a opposition of sorts that would produce a camming effect. Often these stacks would wobble about but when weighted would actually jam up real nice. I have plenty of photos of this esoteric art form. I've actually rappelled off stacks. Granted I was in my twenties. Chuck Grossman was likely the master of this inventive form of desert protection.


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By Shawn Mitchell
From Broomfield
Oct 24, 2010
Splitter Jams on the Israel/Palestine Security Wall.

This not being Facebook, I can't "like" Allen's comment. Placing stacked stoppers or stoppers opposed to hexes is indeed an old school art form. I used it cragging and on walls both. Sort of like the telegraph, it opened miraculous possibilities. But today I'll take my cell phone--and cams--thanks.


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By Bob Dobalina
Nov 5, 2010

Do you like attempting one-handed hex placements (say nothing about stacking them) while pumped out and gripped? Me either.
That's why slamming in a solid cam in that situation is what I'm all about! You will get way more done w/cams.


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By leo costillo
Nov 5, 2010

WHY? Just park you car put your harness on and helmet and display your whole rack with your thumb out on a weekend. Someone will pick you up and the party can climb more routes you can get up p hand crack ect.


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By Eric D
From Gnarnia
Nov 5, 2010
Born again on the last move of the Red Dihedral, high Sierras.

Here is the big question:

Has anyone out there whipped on to a hex placed in a perfectly parallel crack?


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By John Wilder
From Las Vegas, NV
Nov 6, 2010

caverryan wrote:
Especially on one of those "bring at least 8 #3 camalots" climbs? Thinking this would save not only weight, but considerable cost as well.


other arguments considered, it should be noted that it wont save weight over your average rack of cams, as you wont be carrying a rack, you'll be carrying a specific set of cams (the 8 #3s only). It may be a tad heavier, but not noticeably.

also, it wont save on cost as the culture and community in indian creek is that- hey, nobody except the crazies have 8 #3s, so lets all share. bring a double set, your friend brings a double set, and you can borrow the rest.


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By mountainmicah83
From Colorado Springs
Nov 9, 2010
Kit Carson

With no experience in Utah paralell cracks and minimal experience in trad at all really, how would Tri-Cams work in that situation? They are light and are definitely cheaper and come in a 3" size.

Just curious. If that is totally retarded, please share why.


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By Brian in SLC
Nov 9, 2010
Climbing in Smuggler's Notch

mountainmicah83 wrote:
With no experience in Utah paralell cracks and minimal experience in trad at all really, how would Tri-Cams work in that situation? They are light and are definitely cheaper and come in a 3" size.


I climbed the Lost Arrow tip with Brutus of Wyde (RIP), and, he brought the rack. I wanted to lead one of the pitches, which, had a bit of fist crack on it. So, I asked it he'd brought a couple of #4 cams for that pitch. Said, yeah, but, one was an ultra light backcountry cam. Which, I didn't really think about much at the time. So, off we go. At the base of my pitch, he hands me a pretty light rack, and, I see one large cam, and, one large tri cam. Too funny. Yeah, they work, but, they're fiddly, and, not as easy to pull, plug, push up, etc. You set them, and, climb past. So, it pays to be solid at the grade.

In Indian Creek type cracks, I think hexes would be awful to try to use. Sure, Earl did the first pitch of Supercrack without resorting to the Lowe Cam he had with him. But, that guy was very solid at the grade, and, probably could have easily soloed that pitch. Which, was more the style of climbing back then: being solid at the grade.

One of the scarier things I've watched a partner do, was, get pumped trying to fiddle a hex in a parallel sided crack, then, hang on it, and lower. Didn't look solid at all (both the climber and the hex). I climbed through on that pitch and the hex was barely hanging in there. I don't think it would have held a fall, and, I was surprised he lowered off it without it popping loose.

Takes a bit more saavy to use hexes. Which is partly why some of us don't carry them much anymore...(!)

They do force an increased focus on the task at hand!


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By Ryan Williams
Administrator
From London (sort of)
Nov 18, 2010
El Chorro

Brian in SLC wrote:
In Indian Creek type cracks, I think hexes would be awful to try to use. Sure, Earl did the first pitch of Supercrack without resorting to the Lowe Cam he had with him. But, that guy was very solid at the grade, and, probably could have easily soloed that pitch. Which, was more the style of climbing back then: being solid at the grade. One of the scarier things I've watched a partner do, was, get pumped trying to fiddle a hex in a parallel sided crack, then, hang on it, and lower. Didn't look solid at all (both the climber and the hex). I climbed through on that pitch and the hex was barely hanging in there. I don't think it would have held a fall, and, I was surprised he lowered off it without it popping loose. Takes a bit more saavy to use hexes. Which is partly why some of us don't carry them much anymore...(!) They do force an increased focus on the task at hand!


I believe after the first ascent of "Luxery Liner," now known as "Supercrack," Wiggens said something like "We had no idea if we could even climb the crack, and we didn't think anyone would ever climb it again."

I'm not sure he knew that he was going to be "solid" on that climb. There weren't a lot of cracks of that sort that had ever been climbed before... not in desert sandstone anyway.

A lot of cracks were, and still are, climbed on hexes. 99% of us could not have climbed before the invention of the SLCD... but that doesn't mean it can't be done.


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By "H"
From Manitou Springs
Nov 18, 2010
Axes glistening in the sun

I would much rather have the ease of placing the cam than the hex.Stick it and go. Good crack technique is obviously an essential part of this. Solid technique in placing the hex properly is a plus too!
Some realy hard climbs were led in either hobnailed boots or tennis sneakers without the luxury of the gear we have today. I think it's more a matter of mindset. What you think & feel you can do you can. (Just don't try to fly.)


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By NickMartel
From Tucson, Arizona
Sep 16, 2011

I would think that Tri-Cams would work especally well in "soft" rock as the stinger would get really good bite/carve out a little divot for itself.


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By Darren Mabe
From Flagstaff, AZ
Sep 16, 2011
wham bam hand jam. Wrapping up the final moves of Twist of Fate, Oak Creek Canyon. <br /> <br />photo: Blake McCord

caverryan wrote:
friend who is a big crack climber

Hexes don't come in really big sizes


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